Home / News/ BBS leader commences then abruptly halts fast over possible arrest

BBS leader commences then abruptly halts fast over possible arrest

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  • Muslim MPs seeks meeting with President

IN-1By Chathuri Dissanayaka

In a strange turn of events, hard-line leader of the Bodu Bala Sena Organisation Galagoda Atte Gnanasara Thero commenced a fast at the Malwathu Maha Vihara premises yesterday, protesting attempts by the Police to arrest him, only to call it off within hours. 

The Thero claimed he ended the fast following a request by the prelates to take into consideration the investiture ceremonies of young monks that are to take place in Kandy during the week. 

Meanwhile, all 21 Muslim Members of Parliament who wrote to President Maithripala Sirisena on Friday urging him to intervene to quell increasing racial disharmony in the country, are set to meet him today to lobby for immediate action.  

A tense situation arose on Saturday night when Police attempted to arrest the monk in Thoradeniya, in the Ibbagamuwa area of Kurunegala. A group of Bodu Bala Sena monks and laypeople were en route to Anuradhapura to hold a procession on Sunday with the participation of the group’s supporters.

In a planned clandestine operation on Saturday evening, the Police attempted to arrest Gnanasara Thero by blocking the road the BBS group was travelling on. The attempted arrest, which was live streamed through social media, resulted in an altercation between the Police and supporters of the BBS, with the latter hooting at the Police and issuing threats. 

As the tense situation escalated the Police, who were outnumbered by BBS supporters, withdrew without arresting the monk, who even during the incident made several inflammatory statements. The Thero is seen hurling abuse at the Police, threatening to “take the people to the streets to overthrow the Government.”    

According to BBS Chief Executive Officer Dilantha Withanage, the incident took place at around 10.30 p.m. at Thorayaya in Kurunegala, a predominantly Muslim area. The group was en route to Anuradhapura following a religious ceremony at Sulugal Viharaya in Ibbagamuwa.

According to BBS National Organiser Magalkande Sidhartha Thero, the Police were unable to produce an arrest warrant or clearly state on what grounds the arrest was being made.

Attempts by Daily FT to speak to Police Media Spokesperson DIG Priyantha Jayakody to clarify the details were unsuccessful.

Following the incident the BBS changed course to Kandy to meet with the Malwathu Chapter Chief Prelate to inform him of the situation. Following consultation with the Chief Prelate of the Malwathu Chapter, Gnanasara Thero has decided to fast in protest over his possible arrest.

Speaking to the media following the consultations with the Chief Prelate, Gnanasara accused the Government of a witch hunt against him due to pressure from Muslim MPs in the Government calling for him to be arrested.

He urged the Government to first take action against political figures who were inciting racial hatred, naming several Northern Province politicians and several civil society leaders.

Meanwhile, 21 Muslim MPs in the Government met with the President to discuss the situation, UNP MP Mujibur Rahuman said. A letter has been handed over to the President on the same issue following a meeting held at the Ministry of Muslim Affairs on Friday with the participation of all Muslim MPs.  

The Jumma Mosque in Mallawapitiya, Kurunegala had come under attack by an unidentified group on Saturday night. According to Rahuman, attacks on Muslim religious places and Muslim-owned commercial establishments have increased in the immediate past.

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